San Francisco officials are hoping to lure drivers out of some of the most congested areas and spread out the parking load by making spots more and less expensive based on demand.
Ben Davis, chief creative officer at Words Pictures Ideas who worked on the project, says in the next two to four months drivers could see prices move up or down 50 cents an hour depending on how much of a parking draw an area is.
I gave the pilot a test drive and have to deliver a mixed review. One of the coveted spots it found for me, turned out to be vacant because it was blocked off for construction. For another, it's hard to use the app on your own while driving. If I had a passenger who could navigate that would be great, but there is the whole distracted driving concern.
For its part, the app does warn you not to use it while driving, a warning screen pops up when you first go more than 10 mph. Although that made me worry about how the device is tracking my every tiny move, even knowing how fast I'm going.
But the good things are knowing the price of parking in various places and the exact addresses of garages. The information will ultimately be tied in with 511.org so that people can compare parking and driving conditions with public transit or biking.
The city is hailing this as an important step towards cutting greenhouse gasses – people will be circling less for parking if they can easily be guided towards the least congested zones.
Davis says he's excited to see what kinds of apps others can make using the data. One idea San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee floated was that small businesses could post updates on the cheapest or most plentiful parking near their store.
And finally a bit of parking meter trivia courtesy of the mayor. In Chinese the word for parking meter means “A Lion Machine.” He said it's an allusion to what a parking meter does: eat you and your money. He was quick to point out, though, that he meant the old school variety, not the new version the city is promoting today.